Leading in almost every industry, the United States of America has always presented a variety of career opportunities for foreign nationals. The U.S. government has different types of visas for every skill and career goal as well.

To help you with your dream career in the U.S, here’s a practical guide on how to get the USA to work visa and work.

Do I need a work visa in the United States?

Generally, if you’re from outside the United States and want to work in the country, you must apply for a work visa from the U.S. Department of State (DOS). There are a few cases where citizens of certain countries can travel to the US without a visa. However, they must meet certain requirements.

You can check this Travel Without A Visa section from the DOS website for more information.

What are the requirements to apply for a work visa in the United States?

Permanent employment-based visas in the US are divided into five categories, with two or more subcategories each. All of them require basic visa application requirements with few additional documents to prove credibility in the particular category.

Basic Requirements for All Visa Types:

  • Online Visa Application Form
  • Two colored photographs
  • Passport valid for six months after your planned stay
  • Civil documents
  • Travel itinerary
  • Proof of accommodation or invitation letter
  • Proof of payment of visa fees
  • Proof of financial means or sponsorship documents
  • Proof of no criminal record
  • Medical certificate by an embassy-approved physician
  • Professional or employment documents
  • Approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) from employer
  • Approved Labor Certification (for E2 and E3)

Additional Requirements per Visa Categories:

Employment First Preference (E1):

  • Persons with extraordinary ability
    • Proof of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, and the arts
  • Outstanding researchers and professors
    • Proof of at least three years experience in research or teaching
    • Proof of international recognition
    • Job offer on a comparable position in higher education
  • Multinational Executives and managers
    • Proof of employment by the overseas affiliate
    • Job offer on a managerial or executive position

Employment Second Preference (E2):

  • Professionals with advanced degrees
    • Job offer
    • Degree beyond the baccalaureate, or a baccalaureate degree with at least 5 years experience in said profession
  • Persons with exceptional ability
    • Job offer
    • Degree significantly above ordinary sciences, business, and arts degrees

Employment Third Preference (E3):

  • Skilled workers
    • Proof of 2 years regular training or work experience
  • Professionals
    • Baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or foreign equivalent
  • Other workers
    • Proof of training or work experience

Employment Fourth Preference (E4):

  • Beneficiaries of approved petitions, certain broadcasters, certain former employees, certain physicians, religious workers, and others. See the full list here.
  • Approved Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360)

Employment Fourth Preference (E5):

Only a few classifications of temporary or non-immigrant visas allow employment, as listed by USCIS. Nonetheless, they require the same basic requirements and additional occupation-specific documents.

If you’re already in the US holding a visa with no work authorization, you may directly file an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) with the DOS.

Steps on Applying for a Work Visa in the United States

1. Secure your eligibility

In most cases, you need a U.S. employer or other qualified organization to file a petition or application on your behalf to get a USA work visa. This will establish your credibility and lead to greater chances of being approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Only after approval of the petition will you be eligible to apply for a work visa.

However, if you’re an immigrant with extraordinary ability (E1), an investor, or a principal treaty trader, you may file a petition on your own behalf.

2. Start the National Visa Center (NVC) Processing

Once your petition is approved, your case is forwarded to the National Visa Center and processed for several weeks. You will receive a Welcome Letter by e-mail or physical mail when the proceedings are done. It contains information to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) where you can manage your case.

At this stage, you need to pay for the Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee and Affidavit of Support Fee via the CEAC. Here’s a complete list of visa fees.

3. Your employer settles affidavit of support

Your employer or petitioner must complete an affidavit of support, which is accepting financial responsibility for a foreign applicant. Along with this, they should present proof of finances, assets, and other supporting documents to demonstrate their financial capability to get a USA work visa.

4. Complete the Online Visa Application

After the previous steps are cleared, you must now complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260) in the CEAC platform. Don’t forget to print the confirmation page after submission to bring to your interview.

If you’re immigrating with family member/s, they must complete separate DS-260 forms.

5. Collect and submit your documents

Collect the civil documents, such as birth certificates, marriage records, and police records. These documents must come from an official issuing authority in your country of residence. Any document not written in English must be accompanied by translations.

Scan these and the rest of the required documents above for submission into CEAC.

Do not include documents not specifically needed by NVC. Once you submit all documents and your payment is acknowledged, the NVC will review your case and schedule a USA work visa interview.

6. Prepare for the Interview

You will receive an appointment date and time once your online submission is reviewed. Before this date, complete a medical examination with embassy-approved physicians in your country of residence. The result will be given to you or sent directly to the US embassy.

7. Attend the Interview

On the day of your appointment, bring all your documents, appointment letter, and the printed visa application confirmation page. A consular officer will interview you to determine your eligibility for your USA work visa. You will also submit biometric data, such as digital fingerprint scans.

The estimated wait time for the outcome of your application will depend on the embassy’s workload. You can track the status using the CEAC platform.

If you are successfully granted a work visa, you must travel to the US no later than the visa’s expiration date.


We hope that this article on getting a work visa in USA was helpful!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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